Changing Modes of Encounter in Shakespearean Adaptation: The New Digital Audience

Rachael Faith Hilliard, Fordham University


In our present mediascape, performances of Shakespeare on social networks proliferate. Changing Modes of Encounter locates the overlap between social network sites and Shakespeare, examining and sometimes challenging the prevailing models through which performance is critically assessed in the new digital age. Modes of encounter among audience, actors, and adapters have evolved and continue to evolve, aligned with the expectations of the new digital audience. This symbiotic system of complex relationships is remodeled through the methods and ideologies found within social networks’ subcultures. To understand these complex dynamics, Changing Modes of Encounter examines three performances that are socially networked. Such Tweet Sorrow, the RSC’s Twitter version of Romeo and Juliet, invites audience participation in a form common to this platform, and users (audience members) customarily comply with the practices of that subculture. Midsummer Night’s Dreaming, the RSC’s Google+ version of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, actively recruits both online artistic personalities and amateur audience members to produce content alongside that cultural institution’s actors; this production anticipates and even curates the end products that appear online during the performance. Sleep No More, Punchdrunk’s embodied performance of Macbeth and a pastiche of film noir sources, exemplifies how the proliferation of social networks and their various procedural, ritual behaviors correlate to audience engagement in a site-specific and immersive production. Changing Modes of Encounter illustrates how live performance might successfully embrace and adopt the processes and behaviors fostered by socially networked cultures without compromising the conventional “liveness” of a theater-going experience. By drawing on scholarly traditions of performance studies, media studies, and Shakespeare studies, Changing Modes of Encounter offers a robust report on the ways social media are reshaping audience encounters with drama: social media culture is ubiquitous in contemporary lives, social media performances can be located and understood within a framework of earlier performances and mediatizations, and the prospect of using this interpretation to further the dissemination and democratization of Shakespearean performances is promising and ever-expanding. My dissertation refines many of our assumptions about the study of Shakespeare performances in the digital spaces of social networks.

Subject Area

British and Irish literature|Performing Arts|Web Studies

Recommended Citation

Hilliard, Rachael Faith, "Changing Modes of Encounter in Shakespearean Adaptation: The New Digital Audience" (2018). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI10932101.